McAlester News-Capitol - McAlester, Oklahoma
Ceremony steeped in ritual sets new cornerstone, time capsule
October 06, 2007
As the McAlester High School Jazz Choir sang “O What a Beautiful Morning,” members of the Masonic Lodge No. 550 waited excitedly to dedicate a new cornerstone at the former No. 9 Lodge.
They had hoped that the old lodge, at 2125 N. Main St., would have a time capsule hidden behind the cornerstone. Unfortunately, there wasn’t one.
But there is now.
While celebrating 130 years of Masonry in McAlester at the official Centennial event, members of Lodge No. 550 collected business cards and other items from those present.
The cards and a lot of information about Masonry went into the new time capsule. Several of the men remarked that the time capsule is a way for people in the future to know what we did and who we were.
Placing cornerstones and time capsules in buildings is a time-honored tradition among Masons.
Even the White House has a cornerstone that was placed there by Masons.
George Washington himself, our nation’s first president, was a Mason and he officiated at that ceremony.
The cornerstone at the White House, which was called the President’s House back then, was laid Oct. 13, 1792.
Willie Fudge, Grand Lodge staff member, remarked that “This country was settled from east to west as towns were established.” That is why the cornerstones in Washington, D.C., date from the 1700s, while the one being replaced Thursday in North Town was dated 1906.
Just like Washington did so long ago, the members of Masonic Lodge No. 550 dedicated the cornerstone with corn, wine and oil.
They also tested the cornerstone to make sure it was true. First, Fudge presented tools, one by one, to members of the lodge.
Deputy Grand Master Johnny Onkst took the square and placed it against the top two corners of the stone to assure the permanence and stability of the building.
Grand Lecture Curtiss Baker used a level to make sure the building remains true to its foundation despite its height.
Lastly, Pursuivant Dennis O’Dell placed a plumb against the stone’s forward-facing surface to assure that the building will always remain straight.
Then it was time to consecrate the stone. Into a cup resting on top of the cornerstone, Onkst poured kernels of corn, which represented plenty. It is also a reminder of a time when wages were paid in corn. Next, Baker poured wine into the cup as a symbol of fellowship. O’Dell poured oil over the mixture, representing life.
Then it was time for the ceremonial spreading of concrete. The cup containing the corn, wine and oil was removed and each of the following people spread a dab of concrete on the top of the stone: Ridge Smith, representing the Grand Lodge officers; Sue Almy, who represented the wives of the Masons; Jerry Donathan, secretary of Lodge No. 550; Walter Berry, treasurer of Lodge No. 550; Twilia Gray, president of the North Town Association; Joe Ann Vermillion, chairperson of the McAlester Centennial Commission; John Haws, Worshipful Master of Lodge No. 550; Clint Warnock, Worshipful Master of Solomon Lodge No. 32, and Josh Timmons, of the MHS Jazz Choir.
Masons perform the ancient cornerstone ceremony “to help keep history alive, and so that people can see the ways in which our forefathers, literally, laid the foundations of our nation,” the booklet “Cornerstones” reads. “There are great and powerful rulers and even nations whose names we know only because archaeologists have found records buried in containers under their buildings...It’s always easy for the future to lose the past.
“And it is a loss,” the pamphlet continues. “Your grandchildren’s grandchildren will wonder who you were, and what you thought. They will want to know their roots.”
So that future generations will know who we are and what we did, the Masons plan to keep holding their cornerstone ceremonies while searching for — and filling — time capsules for as long as people keep building.
Contact Susan Brittingham at 421-2029 or [email protected]